The Mailbag: Potpourri (Cremation… ID-ing false teachers… Church membership… Women translators)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.

I can’t find any Scripture about cremation. Is this practice another pagan tradition Christians have accepted? I, myself was thinking it’s okay, but now I’m unsure. Thanks.

Thank you so much for setting a super example for us all by a) wanting to do the godly thing about this, and b) searching the Scriptures to find your answer.

You didn’t find any Scriptures about cremation because Scripture doesn’t mention cremation, and there are no related biblical principles that directly indicate that we either should or shouldn’t participate in cremation. And, no, the way cremation is practiced today in Western culture, it is not a pagan practice. Therefore, cremation is an issue of adiaphora, or Christian liberty.

I think Todd Friel has done a good job of answering this question from his “burial is preferable” perspective…

…but I don’t find it compelling enough to move me from my “either way is fine with me” perspective, and I feel like some of the things he says are stretching it just a tiny bit. A few reasons:

  • In the same way that the overwhelming majority of people – even many Christians – don’t make the Ephesians 5 connection between husband and Christ, and wife and church in a wedding ceremony unless it’s explicitly explained to them, the overwhelming majority of people – even many Christians – aren’t going to make the connection between burying someone and the resurrection of the dead at a funeral unless it’s explicitly explained to them. Naturally, I’m all for those explicit explanations during those respective ceremonies. I’m just saying it’s not an automatic connection most people make merely from witnessing a wedding or burial.
  • If you’re buried long enough, your remains are going to decompose and disintegrate, just like someone who is cremated, dies in a fire, is buried or lost at sea, is eaten by a wild animal, etc. If you’re being buried instead of cremated because you want to be sure you have a body to be resurrected into, I would encourage you to do a little more study on the science of the decomposition of the human body. God is able to resurrect every saint no matter what happened to her body after death. And besides, you’re getting a new body anyway.
  • I think a perfectly biblical, and possibly even more strongly Scripturally supported argument could be made for stewardship. Burial is typically much more expensive than cremation. What about the person who would rather be cremated and give the difference in cost to his church? What about a struggling family who could scrape together enough for a cremation, but would have to go into debt for a burial?

This is an issue you will have to pray about, talk with your family about, and maybe even discuss with your pastor. If your conscience would bother you to be either buried or cremated, don’t violate your conscience. A few more resources that may help:

Burial vs. Cremation on Wretched TV

What does the Bible say about cremation? at Got Questions

What does the Bible say about cremation? by John MacArthur

Is Prophetess X a false teacher?

What do you think about the teaching of Apostle Y?

Can I get your thoughts on LifeWay Women’s newest divangelista1?

I’ve received several questions along these lines in recent weeks. Lemme just give you the quick and easy answers to these.

I would never literally bet my life on something, but if I were so inclined, I would feel perfectly comfortable betting that nobody who goes by the title Prophet/Prophetess or Apostle is doctrinally sound. In my experience, everyone I’ve encountered who has gone by one of those titles has been a New Apostolic Reformation heretic (NAR doctrine is literal heresy – another gospel). So, if you come across somebody who goes by one of those titles, there’s no need to sweat whether or not you should read her books or follow him on social media, just avoid all of them them all together.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t think it has caught on widely, yet. It pains me to say this, but if you’re trying to find out if a certain female author or teacher is doctrinally sound and you need a quick rule out without doing hours of research on an someone you’re not familiar with, I would recommend avoiding any author or conference speaker platformed or promoted by LifeWay Women (the women’s division of LifeWay).

I’m not saying every author and teacher LifeWay Women features is necessarily a heretic or false teacher, I’m just saying that enough of them are that it’s reasonable to draw the conclusion that that’s mainly the type of woman they like to promote. (I mean, you don’t see them promoting women like me or Susan Heck or Martha Peace, do you?) I’ve written articles on many of their featured teachers. I’m not familiar with all of them, but all of the ones I am familiar with are biblically problematic.

And, of course, you can always use my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own for tips on researching any of these or other teachers.

Can I please, one more time, beg y’all to stop searching for the diamond chip in the pile of Women’s “Bible” study poo and just study directly from the text of Scripture? You don’t have to vet the Bible or worry whether or not the Author is doctrinally sound. God took care of all that for us.

And if you’re looking for some great women to follow on social media, blogs, or podcasts, or some wonderful pastors to listen to in your leisure time, click here.

1“Divangelista” is just a slang term I coined because the phrase “popular women’s ‘Bible’ study authors” is too long and cumbersome for writing. It’s a combination of the words “diva” and “evangelical” and rhymes with “Sandinista” (if you’re old enough to remember them) for no particular reason.

I came out of the New Age and am looking for a good church. I went to your recommended list and found a church I was interested in. It looked great at first, but it appears they have a rather strange ‘membership’ proposition. It consists of you going to membership classes, then in front of a panel of elders, then you have to attend for up to six months before your ‘interview’. Honestly, I find this bizarre, unusual and is this really necessary? Please could you comment, or get back to me as we have been looking for a spiritual home for a few years now. Thanks.

I’m so happy for you that the Lord is leading you to seek out a doctrinally sound church!

If I were to hazard a guess, I would say, based on no other information than what you’ve given me, that this is probably a very doctrinally sound church. Typically, the reason churches have membership processes like this is that they’re trying to make sure, as best they can, that they don’t admit lost people into membership. The membership classes are for you to learn about the church – their doctrine, their practices, etc. The six month waiting period and the interview are for the church to get to know you and observe the fruit of your life – to see whether your walk matches your talk, so to speak. During this process, they can get a pretty good idea of whether or not you’re actually saved and growing in holiness, and you can get a good idea of whether or not this church is a good fit for you and your family.

Here’s what I would suggest. If I’m understanding correctly, you read all of this information on the church’s website, right? Why don’t you try visiting the church for several weeks and see if it even seems like a church you’re interested in. If not, the membership process is moot. If so, set up an appointment with the pastor or appropriate elder and ask him any questions you may have about the membership process.

If you end up needing to find another church, be sure you carefully peruse all of the church search engines and other resources at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page.

I would also encourage you to listen to this brief sermon series my pastor preached earlier this year about church membership. (Our membership process is similar to, though not quite as extensive as the one you described.)

I agree with you about women’s preaching. But I have a question, what do you think about when a woman translates the message of the preacher? I’m a missionary in Mexico and over here they don’t see a problem with women preaching in most of the churches. So one time at our church my husband gave his testimony in English to the American community and I translated in Spanish, and the other day someone asked me when I would like to preach on Sunday at the Mexican church and I was like “no thank you, I don’t think that is something I will ever do” but this person said: you have preached already. When you translated for your husband…. I personally don’t think is the same. But what are your thoughts?

You are correct. Translating and preaching/teaching are not the same thing, and a woman translating for a pastor or teacher is not something that falls under the biblical prohibition against women pastoring, preaching, or instructing men in the Scriptures. I, myself, have translated for worship services in the past.

That being said, because of the confusion and biblical ignorance of the people you’re working with, it sounds like the wisest thing would be for a man to translate if at all possible, and for you to take the women aside and disciple them in a proper understanding of the Scriptures that govern the role of women in the church.

We understand and agree with the value and Biblical reasoning behind church membership. We are in a small town with limited church options. The most solid church here is a church that requires believer’s baptism for membership. My husband would be more in line with paedo baptism and was baptized as an infant. He is a solid, Biblical, regenerate believer. Because of this we cannot be members. I have no idea what we should do in this situation.

OK, let’s take a deep breath and put things into biblical perspective. As you know, church membership is very important and shouldn’t be treated as trivial, but in a situation like this in which you’ve done everything you possibly can to pursue membership, but it’s impossible, your husband is not sinning by not going through the formal membership process. (You didn’t specify, but from your message, it sounds like you either have been baptized as a Believer or would be willing to submit to credo baptism.) Let me offer you a few thoughts:

  • (This first thought is for my unmarried readers, and is not meant as a criticism of you.) Single ladies considering marriage – it is extremely important that you and your intended be as close to 100% agreement in your theology as humanly possible before you get married. As you can see from this dear sister’s dilemma, differing views on things like baptism are not a “no big deal” proposition, and can cause issues in your marriage and in parenting.
  • If you haven’t already done so, the two of you need to make an appointment with the pastor and discuss your concerns, beliefs, and questions. Some churches have a provisional type of membership for situations like this.
  • Have you thoroughly scoured all of the church search engines at the Searching for a new church? tab in the blue menu bar at the top of this page? Perhaps there’s a new church you’re not aware of, or another church in a neighboring town that would be a better fit for your family.

If this church is absolutely the only option available, and you’ve talked with the pastor, my counsel would be for you to go through the membership process (assuming you’re credo baptist) and for both of you to attend and serve faithfully, as far as is possible (most churches don’t allow non-members to serve in certain ways or positions). If your husband’s convictions about baptism change at some point, he can then pursue membership.

And, as I suggested to the previous reader who asked about church membership, I would also encourage you to listen to this brief sermon series my pastor preached earlier this year about church membership. I think you’ll find it encouraging.

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

3 thoughts on “The Mailbag: Potpourri (Cremation… ID-ing false teachers… Church membership… Women translators)”

  1. Re: cremation or burial
    I was in conversation with an undertaker recently and he explained that in cremation only the flesh is destroyed. When the oven is opened, there is a skeleton there; and my first response was, “Just like in Jesus’ day, when the bodies were put into a small ‘cave’ and a year later the bones were retreived and put into an ossuary [which word comes from the Latin(?) word for ‘bone’].” Now, my explanation was less than perfect, but the point is the same: we are just speeding up the process that happed naturally over the course of a year in that desert climate. I had never thought of it before, until my friend explained the process. Maybe this will help someone in their decision, but if you think it’s inappropriate, I understand if you choose not to post this item.


  2. Thank you Michelle for your thoughtful article on cremation. It will help me in an important decision. I appreciate the time you give to researching, writing, and posting 🙂


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